In this guest post from the Food Standards Agency, Catriona Stewart explores why it’s important to check a restaurant’s food hygiene ratings before booking your Christmas meal….
Most of us will have a least one festive meal out with colleagues, friends or family this Christmas. Our research tells us that food hygiene when we eat out is one of the main concerns we have about food safety, and yet very few people factor this into planning their get-togethers.
We tend to think that we can gauge the level of cleanliness and hygiene when we’re out just by looking. The truth is, you can’t tell a restaurant’s hygiene standards by how tidy the staff are or by how busy the place is. It’s the things you can’t see – like poor hygiene practice in the kitchen – that you need to consider.
The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is a simple way of finding out. Food outlets in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are given a rating when they are inspected by local authority food safety officers – from 0 at the bottom to 5 at the top. Scotland has a similar scheme of its own.
Food hygiene ratings video
Knowing about the hygiene standards means you can be confident that you’ve covered all the bases when you’re the one in charge of making the choice. Around 93% of businesses have a rating of 3 or above so you won’t need to spend ages tracking somewhere down.
It’s really easy to check too. If you’re booking in advance, go online to www.food.gov.uk/ratings. If you’re out and about, look for the green and black sticker – if you can’t see one, just ask the staff.
We know lots of people make spontaneous decisions about where to eat so we want it to be compulsory for businesses to put their sticker up in their window. It’s already the law in Wales, and it’s moving that way in Northern Ireland. We will be pressing the case for this in England too.
Do you check the food hygiene rating when you eat out? Would you change your mind about a place if you knew it‘s hygiene standards weren’t up to scratch? It would be great to hear what you think?
Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is by Catriona Stewart, the head of compliance and enforcement at the FSA. All opinions expressed here are Catriona’s own, not necessarily those of Which?.